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Robert Cialdini is an expert in psychological manipulation, i.e., goal-oriented communication. (Something we all do, more or less successfully, whether we are aware of our own machinations or not.) He wrote the seminal book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. What you may not know is that Cialdini was, in many respects, a founding father of Game. He is cited by many well-regarded pickup artists, and his ideas, like “social proof”, percolate throughout the game literature. Game has had, from its inception. some pretty solid scientific, theoretical, and experiential backing.
Something else you probably don’t know: Cialdini was tapped, along with other renowned behavioral scientists, by the 2008 Obama campaign to help propel Obama to the highest office in the land.
Two weeks before Election Day, Barack Obama’s campaign was mobilizing millions of supporters; it was a bit late to start rewriting get-out-the-vote (GOTV) scripts. “BUT, BUT, BUT,” deputy field director Mike Moffo wrote to Obama’s GOTV operatives nationwide, “What if I told you a world-famous team of genius scientists, psychologists and economists wrote down the best techniques for GOTV scripting?!?! Would you be interested in at least taking a look? Of course you would!!”
Moffo then passed along guidelines and a sample script from the Consortium of Behavioral Scientists, a secret advisory group of 29 of the nation’s leading behaviorists. The key guideline was a simple message: “A Record Turnout Is Expected.” That’s because studies by psychologist Robert Cialdini and other group members had found that the most powerful motivator for hotel guests to reuse towels, national-park visitors to stay on marked trails and citizens to vote is the suggestion that everyone is doing it. “People want to do what they think others will do,” says Cialdini, author of the best seller Influence. “The Obama campaign really got that.”
The existence of this behavioral dream team — which also included best-selling authors Dan Ariely of MIT (Predictably Irrational) and Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago (Nudge) as well as Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman of Princeton — has never been publicly disclosed, even though its members gave Obama white papers on messaging, fundraising and rumor control as well as voter mobilization. All their proposals — among them the famous online fundraising lotteries that gave small donors a chance to win face time with Obama — came with footnotes to peer-reviewed academic research. “It was amazing to have these bullet points telling us what to do and the science behind it,” Moffo tells TIME. “These guys really know what makes people tick.”
Cialdini’s theories about the nature of human psychology and his influence on the American elite are evidence of the triumph of Game. Game has infused every facet of the body politic, not just the sexual organs. As CH has said many times already, if you can game a woman into bed you can game a boss into handing you a raise or a nation’s voters into electing you President.
That is the awesomely dark power of Game. And dark it is, because what is essentially remote control of another person’s executive brain function is the kind of power that irresistibly pulls one to malevolent ends.
President Obama is still relying on behavioral science. But now his Administration is using it to try to transform the country. Because when you know what makes people tick, it’s a lot easier to help them change.
You can thank Game for our first two-term halfling SWPL President and the nationalization of 1/7th of the economy. Now, if Game can do that, imagine what it can do on bored girls at bars yearning for a little excitement in their lives.
Some have said the 21st Century will be the age of biology. I think what we are entering is the age of Orwellian mastery over human psychology. Scarily, the two might be related. The power to shape people’s opinions and emotions through mere word and expression, and guide them to actions they may not have taken otherwise, is reaching an apotheosis that could be magnified a thousandfold coupled with the power to alter people’s genetic architecture.
If your eyes are open, you don’t have to look far to see foreboding signs of this new age of the human aquarium rising into view. Unaccountable secret government agencies using the internet to “manipulate, deceive and destroy reputations”. Your webcam commandeered by shadowy operatives. Cameras on every street corner. Cathedralsourced slanderswarms of crimethinkers.
Cialdini’s name has been found in NSA documents. I wouldn’t be surprised if the man himself is working for them.
Doubters can snark about “PUAs” to their hearts’ content, but the arc of recent history is proving that PUAs were at the leading edge all along. Will people listen only when it’s too late?